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ALP Member discusses raising a private members bill about telemarketing.

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Transcript of interview with Chris Smith, Radio 2GB - private members bill for a national ‘do not call’ list

September 7, 2005

Presenter: An official ‘don’t call’ register could be introduced into Parliament to stop these phone predators making our lives a misery. And I’ve got to say that previous caller, getting two per day from the same company - the same telemarketing firm - kind of tops the list. Now I’ll take your calls shortly on this but first we’ll speak to federal MP Anna Burke who’s behind a push to introduce $10,000 fines to relentless telemarketers. How ‘bout $25,000 fines? Those who insist on ringing people who’ve already placed themselves on a ‘do not call’ list.

Presenter: Anna Burke, good afternoon.

Anna Burke: Hi Chris, how’re you going?

Presenter: I’m very well. Were you on the line listening to a couple of those calls?

Anna Burke: I was. I heard Rosalie and Tia and they’re very similar to the calls, letters, emails I get into my office that prompted us to go down this line.

Presenter: Tell me some examples of the kind of badgering that you have experienced either personally or from constituents who have written to you.

Anna Burke: I’ve got to be honest, I’ve got a silent number like a lot of MPs but still we get calls because you buy things, you put down your home phone number. I have the luxury of saying ‘where did you get my phone number from?’, ‘oh, it’s in the White Pages’, ‘it can’t be’ and they put me through to the supervisor, and as a federal Member of Parliament they jump up and down, and somehow you’re off their list. But the normal punter, the normal individual out there cannot do that. And as you say, it’s always the arsenic hour, it’s always the hour when the tea’s on, the kids are in the bath and it’s ‘ring, ring’. And I always know when it’s ‘hello, Mrs Burke’, I think ‘it’s not someone I want to be talking to’.

Presenter: No

Anna Burke: No longer is your home your castle, it’s a telemarketing paradise and something needs to be done to stop it.

Presenter: Who are the worst offenders?

Anna Burke: Well probably your last caller identified one of them.

Presenter: Optus?

Anna Burke: Well I don’t want to go down that path. But certainly people now days, we’ve had one woman say she had 13 calls in one afternoon/evening period. And I should suspect that she’d bought or purchased something recently that prompted people to be ringing and calling her.

Presenter: That’s almost enough evidence to go to the local court and get an AVO out as I said to the previous caller.

Anna Burke: Well it’s virtually harassment. Certainly elderly people say that they feel quite intimidated and violated and threatened. Usually older people know everyone who’s calling them and they feel quite ill at ease when someone calls and badgers them into purchasing something they don’t want. Australians are great shoppers but we want to go out and shop, you know?

Presenter: How prevalent are complaints about this kind of activity to Fair Trading, do you know?

Anna Burke: In NSW it’s the biggest source of complaint.

Presenter: Is it?

Anna Burke: It’s the number one complaint through the office of Fair Trading in NSW. And I should imagine if we had stats from all the other stats it would be the same.

Presenter: Anna, there is currently a list that people can go to and use, place their number themselves on the list, to try and avoid being harassed by telemarketers, it’s a private list though isn’t it?

Anna Burke: Yeah, there’s a group called ADMA. The Australian Direct Marketing Association. They have a list. And this is the fascinating thing. The industry is prepared to say, ‘register with us and we’ll take you off the list’. They only have 500 members so it’s not everybody and we do also know of instances where people have placed themselves on the list and then their privacy still has been breached.

Presenter: Right, so it’s not necessarily successful in stopping these pests.

Anna Burke: No it’s not, but it’s the only thing we’ve got at the moment, so I still do encourage people to go on it because it’s one way of indicating to the Government that this is a huge area of concern. Currently the list has got about 400,000 people on it.

Presenter: Has it really?

Anna Burke: And 10,000 a month are joining. And I can tell you, since I’ve been putting out a little kit in my electorate saying how to get on to the ADMA list I know I’ve added to their workload.

Presenter: And for listeners by the way if you want to know how to get on the ADMA list I’ll give you the details shortly. OK. That list seems to be a terrific attempt but it’s not necessarily working. What do you want to set up federally?

Anna Burke: Well I want to set up federally an actual ‘do not call’ list administrated by the ACCC. So a legislated list. Something that if you breach, you will be fined and you will be in trouble.

Presenter: How much?

Anna Burke: The ALP took to the last election $10,000. I think that’s sufficient deterrent but I’m open to public debate and information on it.

There’s a list on the US that is administered by the Government. Currently 87 million households have registered. That’s seventy per cent of all homes in the US have said ‘leave me alone’, ‘stop bugging me’.

Presenter: That is staggering. Gee whiz, that is a staggering number,

Anna Burke: Yes and if the US can do it - the land of the free and the brave - why can’t we legislate it here?

Presenter: And it just gives us all an indication that the complaints that we get into for instance some of our talkback radio stations and shows, just like this one, are real and representative of what’s being felt out there: they hate these people.

Anna Burke: They hate these people and if you don’t want to go on the list, you don’t have to. It’s an opt-in provision. So if you still want to be bugged at home, if you still want to know about the trips and the free mobiles, you can get those calls.

Presenter: Now Anna, I hate to remind you of this, but you don’t have the numbers in either parliament in Canberra at the moment. How do you intend getting this across the line?

Anna Burke: Look I think my issue of raising a private members bill is to say to everybody ‘this is a genuine concern out there’ and just to put the spotlight on the Government and say, ‘why aren’t you doing something about this?’ ‘why isn’t your local federal member - you know, Liberal, Labor or other - supportive of this idea to give you some peace at home?

Presenter: You’re a gem. Go get ‘em.

Anna Burke: Thank you

Presenter: Thank you for that. Anna Burke. Federal Labor MP. How good’s she? I tell you what, she’s tapped into something that’s a hot topic.

Contact Jehane Sharah on 0417 140 935